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Fowler rides hot putter to knockout stage

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SAN FRANCISCO – Rickie Fowler has been waiting a long time to see some putts drop.

Imagine his delight, then, when he holed 71 feet worth of putts on the last four holes Thursday to stun Shane Lowry and clinch his spot in the knockout stage at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play.

Two down with six holes to play, Fowler won Nos. 13 and 14 with pars, then drained a 16-footer for birdie on 15, an 18-footer for par on 16, a 30-footer for par on 17, and a 6-footer on the last for a closing birdie and a stressful 1-up victory at Harding Park.

“I’ve been waiting to make putts like that since the end of last year,” he said.

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Indeed, Fowler has struggled mightily with the flat stick this year, sitting 165th in strokes gained-putting. (Last year, he was 37th.) He has always considered himself a strong putter, so he said his woes this season are mostly attributed to a lack of confidence.

“Not seeing balls go in, it kind of wears on you a little bit,” he said. “It’d be nice if this was the turning point.”

The only player in his group with a 2-0 record, Fowler is assured of playing in Saturday’s Round of 16, regardless of what happens on the third day of group play. He will face Graeme McDowell on Friday.

“I want to go and play a good match and win the match,” Fowler said, “but it will give me a little bit of time to relax and look forward to the weekend, figure out a little bit more what we need to tighten up in the game.”